It’s a very busy market right now - what are your essential tips for coping with the demand?
I work under the self-employed model, so right now it is just me and I’ve been working from 6am to 11pm. The work/life balance is a real struggle and when it is your own business you don’t switch off. Especially in the current times when social opportunities haven’t been there, it has been all consuming and just ‘work work work’.
I think remembering that you can’t achieve everything in one day is really important, prioritising your workload and managing the expectations of those around you.
How do you manage the expectations of those you are working with?
You have to update information; at the moment the issue is exchange deadlines. People are used to hearing it will take four weeks to exchange, or 21 days from receipt of contract. The current average is 16-18 weeks, which is a huge difference from the norm, so you can’t send memos out with completely unrealistic expectations.
A good agent will tell their seller and buyers, that we can do everything we can, but the current reality is that there are delays at the moment. It is a very busy market and it’s not just agents; conveyancers are overladed, moving vans and companies are fully booked, every part of the chain in the moving process is seeing the same pressure.
As long as people know this, and it’s communicated clearly from the start, then people are more accepting. This is getting harder because people are getting to the place where they will miss the stamp duty deadline and those are conversations I am having at the moment.
Do you think discussing these points at the appraisal can risk losing the instruction?
Sellers will always ask how long I think the process will take. I will give several scenarios; the best-case scenario, what I think with my experience is the most likely, and what the worst-case scenario would be.
If someone then comes to them after and says guaranteed four weeks, I think sellers know that’s not honest advice. They’ve seen the media reports and there is so much information out there.
I do think people know what’s realistic and what’s not. I have had one sale through in four weeks, but it was a cash buyer, all of the searches came in on time, and there was no chain. Everything aligned perfectly, and that’s not very common.
How do you manage expectation of buyers?
I am honest with people; I tell people if there is a huge interest in the property they want. Of course, people are going to be disappointed, and buyers can be very cheeky. I always tell them to offer what they are comfortable with, something they will not regret if they are not successful.
If the interest is huge, then best and finals is by far the fairest way to go. Once I have the offers, then the vendor can choose, and it’s not always the highest offer. Sometimes it is the most proceedable and sometimes they choose someone on an emotional basis. They want a family and not an investor, for example.
Don’t lie and don’t play buyers [off] against each other. Some buyers will try to find out what other buyers have offered, but you need to operate by best practise and not disclose any information.
Have you had any sellers that are aware of the current market and want to ask for a higher price than what their home is valued for? How you do you manage them without risking the instruction?
That’s a good question. I’m a business owner - this is how I feed my children, so of course I want the instruction. I don’t want to lose the business. But I give my advice, if they want to try a higher price, we can trial it with a view to reducing.
The best time to secure an offer is in the first 4-8 weeks. After that, the second wave will only come after a reduction. A house is worth what someone will pay for it and my job is to get my vendor the best price I can.
This does have to be within reason. I would turn an instruction down if it were completely overpriced and was just going to sit on the market. I will walk away and say they can always contact me if they change their mind.
It’s a tough market out there for instructions - what would be your advice to agents who are struggling to get instructions and are feeling the pressure to drop their fees?
Once you are in the MA, I don’t think a person chooses you based on fees. There are so many other factors. I think vendors will ask about this because they don’t know what else to ask.
You must know your worth and the UK is so much cheaper than other countries in Europe; in Malta, where I worked before, fees were 3.5%-5%. I don’t think vendors realise how much work and expertise they get from a good agent.
This is why I support getting agents qualified and professionalising the industry, making the industry something that young people want to get into and where the job is more respected. I don’t think there is an understanding from the public of the skill that is needed to get a sale through smoothly - the best compliment is when a vendor tells me my services have been worth every penny.
What is the most important factor a seller will choose an agent on if not the fee?
Personality, honesty and professionalism. It’s a very close relationship - my vendors are on speed dial!
The journey of selling can be intense and emotional. Vendors don’t want to choose someone who is not responsive, who won’t fight their corner. They want to know: is my agent going to be there for me and take away the stress and the grief? Can they negotiate through a bad survey which are notoriously horrific?
Forms for vendors are a nightmare. I will Zoom my clients and hold their hands through the entire process. A vendor will talk about fees, but they will choose based on the relationship you can offer.
*Liana Loporto is NAEA Propertymark President and owner of Liana Loporto Property